Ray Epps, the man accused by conspiracy theorists of orchestrating the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021 on behalf of the federal government to frame Trump supporters, has once again stirred outrage online after being sentenced to one year of probation.
The 62-year-old former Marine, who was present on the day of the riot but did not go inside the Capitol building, received his sentence on Tuesday after pleading guilty last year to disorderly conduct. Epps’ sentence reflects his decision to turn himself in and cooperate with law enforcement after being named as a person of interest.
Despite arguing for months that the initial lack of charges against Epps proved he was a federal agent, conspiracy theorists remain convinced even after his sentencing. The sentence, they feel, is far too light compared to those given to other attendees, and while Epps needed to be sentenced to stave off the accusations, the deal is him secretly being rewarded for his efforts.
Footage of the ex-Oath Keepers militia member suggesting that protesters should enter the Capitol the day prior to the riot has been widely cited as proof of his federal ties. The allegation, which started among far-right users on social media and fringe blogs, eventually made its way to Fox News and former President Donald Trump.
Innocuous videos such as a clip showing Epps whispering in a man’s ear outside the Capitol were also seen as definitive proof of sinister intentions, even though the man in question later admitted that Epps had actually been urging him to calm down.
Other clips similarly show Epps urging protesters to de-escalate.
Nevertheless, the claim that Epps is to blame for the Capitol riot is part of a never-ending narrative from conservatives that places blame on everyone but themselves for the violence that day. Conspiracy theorists claim that those imprisoned for violence are innocent, while at the same time claiming that everyone from left-wing agitators to the FBI and Ukraine carried out all the destruction on Jan. 6.
Right-wing figures responded to the sentencing by making even more false statements, such as the claim that Epps was “the only person who instructed people to enter the Capitol building and encouraged others to breach barriers.”
Tim Pool, a popular podcaster among the far-right, also responded to the sentencing by alleging that Epps had someone incited the entire Capitol riot.
“HOLY SHIT,” Pool said. “The dude who incited j6 gets no jail time??”
Others compared Epps’ sentence to that of Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, who received 22 years in prison.
“So let me get this straight, the guy that wasn’t even in DC on J6 got 22 years in prison, and the guy there telling people to storm got capitol got one year of probation,” one user said. “Can someone please explain these sentences to me?”
Conveniently left out of the complaints is the fact that Tarrio helped organize the assault from afar. Social media posts and text messages made by Tarrio that day saw him encouraging members of the Proud Boys as they stormed the Capitol. After the violence unfolded, Tarrio sent the following message: “Make no mistake. We did this.”
Aside from the complaints, conspiracy theorists also responded by doing what they do best: spreading conspiracy theories. Allegations that FBI Director Christopher Wray had Epps’ phone number prior to Jan. 6 began circulating. Others claimed Epps was acting under the direction of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Regardless of the outcome with Epps, conspiracy theorists will not let go of their contradictory beliefs surrounding Jan. 6, which they initially praised before shifting blame in light of the public backlash.